France honours last of Britain's Great Warriors
Monday 21 June 1999
A group of 11 British veterans of the First World War - with a combined age of more than 1,000 years - returned to France yesterday to receive the thanks of the French people for their contribution to the war which shaped the century.
Fred Bunday, 98, became the first British serviceman of the Great War to receive the Legion d'Honneur on French soil since President Jacques Chirac offered his country's highest award to all surviving Allied veterans of the war last year. Other members of the group were given their medals in ceremonies in Britain.
Mr Bunday, who served in the Royal Navy in 1917 and 1918, stood ramrod straight to be presented with his award in the ceremony at Les Invalides, a few feet from the tomb of the Emperor Napoleon.
He did not waver or flinch, even when gripped by the shoulders and thoroughly kissed on both cheeks by General Jean Guinard of the French army. "I feel terrifically honoured to receive the medal in France," Mr Bunday said later, walking with a cane but otherwise unaided.
"I believe I'm the first from Britain to do so since President Chirac made this fantastic offer. I feel I've made history in my own way, just as my father did. He was in the Navy too and he was one of the pall-bearers for Queen Victoria."
Mr Bunday, who is from Portsmouth but now lives near Bognor in West Sussex, was 15 when he joined the Navy in 1917. He served until the end of the Second World War - one of the few men who saw active service in both wars. "My great-great-grandsons will be delighted," he said. "I have four of them under eight, and they keep saying to me, `Grandad, when can we see your new medal?'."
Around five million British soldiers served in France and Belgium between 1914 and 1918. More than 600,000 of them died in battle. Of the survivors of the survivors, there are 423 recorded as still alive by the First World War Veterans' Association (FWWVA). Of these, 170 have received the Legion d'Honneur, and many other applications are being processed by the French authorities. This is, inevitably, a race with time. William Southern, aged 100, who fought at the Somme and Passchendaele, was also to have received his medal yesterday. He died last Monday.
President Chirac's offer has substantially swollen the numbers of the known British survivors. Dennis Goodwin, founder of the FWWVA, who led yesterday's expedition, said 100 old soldiers unknown to veterans' groups had come forward since the French offered to decorate all living Allied soldiers of the Great War.
After the ceremony, the veterans were given a tea-party at the British Embassy by the ambassador, Sir Michael Jay, and his wife, Sylvia, assisted by British children living in Paris. The spirit and courage of the group was epitomised by Bill Lorrie, 99, a tall man in an elegant white suit. Greeted by Lady Jay on the embassy steps, he boomed: "It's very, very nice of you. I'm sorry I can't see you, but I'm delighted to meet you."
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Robin Thicke named sexist of the year 2013
PAs cleared of fraud - and Nigella Lawson left reeling at 'ridiculous sideshow' of drug allegations and public dissection of marriage to Charles Saatchi
Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
Paul Walker death caused by speed alone
Apollo Theatre collapse: Scores injured after ceiling collapses in London's West End
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 2 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 3 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 4 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Capita ...